Mark Ramprakash reflects on exciting summer ahead

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The most famous cricketing arena in the world provided the setting as prominent cricketing personalities joined writers to discuss cricket. Invited guests also received a tour of Lord’s - the home of cricket.

The ECB is developing exciting plans to boost its support of regional cricket within the British Asian community, from the grassroots level and up and took the opportunity to provide an overview of impressive strategies to engage directly with those involved and to work together to achieve these goals.

There was a preview from a cricket great ahead of this summer’s tours of England by Sri Lanka and India, and provided an opportunity for feedback and questions.

Mark Ramprakash MBE was one of the most gifted cricketers of his generation. As a celebrated batsman, Ramprakash played 52 Test matches and 18 one day internationals for England over the course of a 25 year professional career with Middlesex and Surrey. A former Wisden Cricketer of the Year and PCA Player of the Year, he is one of only 25 people in the history of the sport to have scored 100 first class centuries.

He said: “We have a really exciting summer ahead and I believe players of the calibre of Sam Robson and Joe Root will be the ones to watch out for. Moeen Ali has matured and impressed hugely with good batting and off spin bowling.”

In 2006 Ramprakash became the second consecutive cricketer to win Strictly Come Dancing; he and his partner, Karen Hardy, pipped rugby player Matt Dawson and partner Lilia Kopylova to the crown. “Strictly improved my footwork,” he smiled.

Ramps shared stories of the influence his Guyanese father had on his career. In a light hearted moment he said: “His influence was there and even until the age of 35 he was still telling me how to play!”

The cricketing icon spoke of the importance of support from teammates: “I went to a state school and learnt cricket through the local club. They nurtured the likes of me and it was great having senior pros to guide the new recruits. I was very fortunate to have a captain in Mike Gatting who taught me so much by encouraging me to simply enjoy the game.”

Ramps admits to being “old school” and always advises fledgling cricketers to “concentrate on doing the simple things very well and the rest will follow.”

On his career highlights Ramps has fond memories of reaching his hundredth century: “Yes, that is a treasured memory. I was stuck on 99 for 11 innings for a while and the cameras were at each game asking if this would be the day and eventually I reached my milestone which I’m awfully proud of.

“Thankfully I managed to stay injury free throughout my career and enjoy a love of the game which increases every day. I have been disciplined enough to take care of my body. The game is evolving and all sportsmen, including cricketers have to be true to themselves. Athleticism is very important as is nutrition. The T20 is such a pacey and dynamic game and anything less than 110 percent fitness will be exposed ruthlessly."

Ramps has advice for cricketers and coaches across the board: ”Work hard and don’t be over reliant on the technical support team. Coaches should provoke their players thoughts and challenge their mentality. Give the younger players space to develop themselves under supervision and guidance.”

Ramprakash singled out two players ahead of the tests against Sri Lanka: “The Sri Lankans are outstanding in all departments but Sangakkara and Jayawardene are still mixing it. They want to do well and are such excellent pros that excel at the basics. These two are so good – artists in their batting. Their concentration is excellent and they do the simple things so well.”

The summer programmes are vital in preparing for the World Cup in New Zealand next year. “I hope the selectors identify a group of players to lead us into the tournament and stick to that,” said Ramprakash. “I’m a big fan of Sam Robson in the longer format of the game. He’s very orthodox, stands correctly, has the correct grip and generally looks to make life easy – I know I bang on about basics but Sam Robson is one who does it very well.

“Steve Finn’s confidence building is coming along well. He had a torrid winter and the international spotlight can be harsh. Confidence is low but he is surrounded by top people. Hopefully he will feature for England later in the summer.”

The discussion moved onto the tests against India. Ramps smiles; “They bring confidence and energy. The new breed of Indian cricket stars also have experience of playing high pressure cricket and play both formats equally well. The Indians bring confidence and will pose England a challenge with their bowling. If they can get 3 guys bowling well they will be a handful for England. I’m going for England to win it 2-1.”

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